Election 2013 candidate response: Hafis Devji, Ward 10

[We sent your questions to all the Election 2013 candidates. We are posting their unedited responses in the order that they’re received. – Ed.]

Hafis Devji, candidate for Ward 10

1. In the context of our City’s growth, how will you support the development of existing communities as opposed to new neighbourhoods?

We need to have a significant discussion into what we want our City to look like as we build into the future.  Edmonton and the Greater Edmonton Area is growing at a shocking rate. The forecast is that the Greater Edmonton Area will add as many as 400,000 people in the next 10 years. That level of growth is stunning. As the City struggles to keep up with this massive amount of growth, new communities and established ones will need to grow together with a proportional sharing of resources. We must make sure as a City that we plan well and make room for a healthy mixture of diverse living choices.  Newer communities need new roads, new sewers, and all new infrastructures.  This is very expensive to add this infrastructure, in fact municipalities often never make back the initial outlays in property tax, but we need to spend the money. As we spend money building new communities we must remember that our established communities need the same influx of money.  Established communities infrastructure has in Edmonton reached the end of the life cycle and is going to require massive investment.  Ward 10 is a perfect example, sewer upgrades are desperately needed and money needs to be allocated.

One of the major initiatives that I want to implement is that developers share the cost of building our communities, new and old. Older communities are going to see new developments. I will make sure that any high and medium developments make sense for the community. As new developments come we need to make sure that the costs of roads, sewers, community centres and playgrounds, for example, are planned in advance and everyone pays their due. This new approach will make it an advantage to build in older communities with pre-existing core services. It might slow down suburban development, but the communities that are built will be well-supported, built with purpose, and allow for a slower introduction of infrastructure.

2. How will you support independent locally-owned businesses in Edmonton?

Coming from a family owned and operated business environment I would work diligently to support locally-owned businesses.  Being a business owner in the City for over 25 years I understand clearly the great opportunities and great challenges within Edmonton.  First, I would look to offer personal support for businesses through continuing the mentorship that I currently offer.  Second, I would work with council to reduce the time it takes for permitting and zoning for new businesses, we have heard often that the process takes too long and is too difficult.  Finally, encouraging innovation and supporting the organizations within the City that are focused on entrepreneurship, like EEDC, TEC Edmonton, and Startup Edmonton.

3. How will you support local food and urban agriculture in Edmonton?

In our Ward as we have door knocked we have heard often that people want to support local food.  Urban agriculture and regional food security is an area that I think innovation and community building can have great impact.  I would support the newly formed Edmonton Food Council and the explosion of community farmers markets.  Having the University Farm in the Ward has allowed me to see some great programs that are working to bring solutions to agriculture and the Heritage Chicken Program is a perfect example.  We need to find home grown solutions to deal with local food and regional food security and I will do everything I can to encourage and support solutions.

4. How will you address Indigenous Edmontonians’ history and needs?

The Indigenous population of Edmonton needs to be embraced for its crucial part of our history and vital role in our future.  Edmonton has an opportunity to become a tourist destination worldwide for a comprehensive Indigenous experience. The Shaw Conference Centre and Edmonton Tourism have been asked repeatedly where they can see the history of the Indigenous people of Edmonton going and in what direction.  I think that the Spirit of Edmonton project that Lewis Cardinal is leading is an exciting project.  I believe that the Spirit of Edmonton would give a great nod to the past and would create an environment of inclusion for the present and the ongoing future.
There are 88,000 Indigenous people within an hour of the City of Edmonton right now and within 5 years Edmonton is forecasted to have the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada.  We need to breed inclusion, acceptance and opportunity for Edmonton’s Indigenous population, but as well for Edmonton’s newcomers, disabled, and other groups that add to the mosaic of Edmonton.

5. How do you envision the public transit system evolution?

I want to see a fully developed public transit system.  I whole heartedly support the construction of a far reaching and vibrant LRT system, supplemented by a diverse and expansive bus network.  I would make sure that we develop the public transit system with the eye that more people riding the system will mean less cars on the streets.  I do commit to increasing the amount of money to repair the poor state our roads are in and making sure that funding for a public transportation does not come at the cost of our roads.  We need to make sure we have roads that create space for our LRT, buses, cars, transport trucks, bikes and pedestrians, all on our streets safely.

6. What will you do to better engage post-secondary research / students / faculty with the rest of the community?

One of the big pushes for my campaign and when I become a councillor is the move towards innovation.  I believe that the City of Edmonton can find new solutions to the old problems we face all the time.  Roads, water, energy, transportation, snow removal, have all been done the same way for a long time.  Innovative programs like our world renown waste treatment program, that we are actual making money on through consulting contracts, should be the new norm.  This is where I would engage our incredible post-secondary institutions.  People often forget we are a post-secondary town with 6 major institutions.  By supporting innovation we create an environment of new entrepreneurial pursuits, create an environment to keep our educated youth at home, diversify the economy and encourage a continual revitalization of the education sector.  I believe that we need to embrace what makes us different and strong and in Edmonton that is post-secondary institutions.

7. What is the biggest challenge your Ward faces? What solutions would you seek?

The biggest challenge our Ward has is finding and electing a voice that gets heard.  As we have heard while knocking doors it is often that Administration has not listened to the voices of the residents.  This is unacceptable.  Ward 10 has seen bike lanes implemented and surplus school sites going to the First Time Home Buyer Plan while significant community concern mounts.  Ward 10 has a number of established neighbourhoods that will need significant infusion of infrastructure dollars and their voice must be heard.   I can promise that I have heard about the flooding basements in our communities, the poor sidewalks and the bad roads, I will make sure that Ward 10 gets what is needed and will ALWAYS be heard.

8. How can our readers learn more about your platform, contact you with questions or concerns, or get involved in your campaign?

The best way to find more information about our campaign, our platform and how to get involved is through our website at www.vote4hafis.ca.  We have my phone number on there and please invite me down to have a coffee and a conversation.  As well we are hosting a number of upcoming community events, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook to hear what we have coming up.